Wednesday, October 30, 2013

November 1972 Part Two: At Long Last... Night Nurse!

The Incredible Hulk 157
"Name My Vengeance: Rhino!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

Love is in the air as Betty Ross and Major Talbot get ready for their wedding day. Jim Wilson is invited to go but he decides against it and hitches a ride to New Jersey. The Leader, paralyzed after his last encounter with the Hulk, uses his brain powers to communicate with the Rhino. Willing the large villain to come to his ship, the Leader is able to insert his mind into the Rhino's. Meanwhile, the Hulk has returned from his adventure in the micro- world. Saddened and full of rage after losing Jarella, the Hulk goes on a tear in New Jersey until Jim Wilson's soothing words allow hi to transform back into Bruce Banner. Unfortunately the peace doesn't last long as the Leader/Rhino shows up to cause trouble. Threatening to destroy Betty's wedding, he hopes that the Hulk will try to stop him so that Betty may get killed in the ensuing fight. Once the Leader/Rhino smacks Jim aside, Banner loses control and once again becomes the Hulk. The Leader's mind, combined with the Rhino's powerful body, is able to give the Hulk a run for his money in a brawl. After beating him up a bit the Leader takes off in his flying vessel to go to the wedding. Against Jim Wilson's warnings, the Hulk chases off after his hated enemy. The story ends with a dour General Ross receiving the news on the phone by Wilson that trouble is coming his way.
-Tom McMillion

Say what?
Peter Enfantino: You can tell The Rhino belongs to that exclusive country club known as The First Tiers because he immediately elevates a "mediocre" story to "readable." The Leader and Jim Wilson, on the other hand, can do just the opposite so, after the two elements cancel each other out, I'm left with a flat line. I still haven't recovered from that 27-issue Leader story from the ol'TTA days and Wilson and his faux urban dialect are annoying to the Nth (his thoughts bounce back and forth from high education to simpleton). Add to that the worst proofreading ever committed in the Marvel bullpen and you've got something immensely forgettable. Herb Trimpe, God love him, can't draw a black man with an afro to save his life. Archie Goodwin, one of my all-time favorite comic book writers, does not go out on a high note. What the hell does "I should be glom what's happenin'..." mean? I thought it might be a typo but I really wasn't privy to the hip street lingo the Marvel writers were constantly in touch with so it may actually mean something. Where's my Urban Dictionary when I need it?

Tom McMillion: I'm slightly interested in what happens next issue, though saying I'm excited would be a stretch. While the whole mind swap story angle has been done to death it made this issue a little more interesting than usual. Peter, I couldn’t agree more with your opinion on this series as well as the annoying Jim Wilson.

Scott McIntyre: Solid tale of revenge, enacted by the paralyzed Leader who takes over the mind (such as it is) of the Rhino. There's a really great moment when Banner, upon hearing of Betty's upcoming nuptials, begins the transformation and then stops. This respite is woefully short, as the Leader/Rhino appears moments later. The Leader's physical predicament is an interesting twist and works because he's not a physical adversary. He also now has a tangible reason to attack the Hulk and bash the life of Bruce Banner to itsy bitsy grains. I don't remember how long his condition lasts, but for the nonce, it's some decent stuff.

Matthew Bradley: Thus ends Marvel Super-Heroes—which went out on a characteristically low note, redrawing the cliffhanger ending to provide closure—so excepting Spidey, with whom I’ll be trucking along for two more years in Marvel Tales, or occasional treasury-edition reprints (like, ironically, next issue), virtually everything I read from now on will be originals.  We also bid adieu to Archie, whose modest run was, if not brilliant, then certainly solid, and a hell of a lot better than much of what preceded it, with apologies to Stan and Roy.  That puts us one fill-in away from the advent of Englehart, but if Goodwin conversely wanted to go out on a high note (aided by the Trimpe/Trapani team), he could have done a lot worse than with this fusion of two Hulk villains.

Scott: The art is off a little this month, but still fine. Sam Trapani is a good inker who brings a lot to the table, but Jack Abel is my favorite embellisher of Trimpe's pencils on the Hulk. It's worthwhile to note that, while Jim Wilson is smacked around, the incident on the cover doesn't actually happen.

Kull the Conqueror 5
“A Kingdom By the Sea”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Marie & John Severin

H’Nar, dark-skinned Regent Prince of Demascar, enters King Kull’s throneroom with a tribute of exotic riches and a proposal: help his peaceful kingdom defeat its villainous rival Rikos, and Demascar will enter into a profitable trade agreement with Valusia. Kull agrees. When the Valusian armada arrives at Demascar, they are greeted by the beautiful courtesan Krista — and soon attacked by giant winged dragons sent by the Rikosian wizard Zakar. After many losses, Kull and his Red Slayers finally kill the demonic reptiles. Enraged that H’Nar didn’t inform him that the land of Rikos battles with sorcery, Kull sends Brule to spy on the Prince and his advisor M’Ku. Brule discovers that M’Ku is a sorcerer who plans to lure the Valusians to their death, using their life-forces to unleash night demons that will destroy Rikos. Before he can warn Kull, Brule is captured by M’Ku’s magic. When the Valusian armada sails for Rikos the next day, it is attacked by a death-ship of undead warriors. The skeletal ghouls begin to make short work of Kull’s Slayers — but back on Demascar, Brule slips his bonds and kills M’Ku, turning the undead to dust in the process. However, this heroic act also turns the night demons loose on Demascar. Kull returns to restock his ships as Demascar crumbles. Before the Valusians set sail for home, Krista appears and employs Kull to take the true treasure of Demascar with him: the doomed kingdom’s children. Once again, Kull agrees. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: For the first time in Marvel history, someone other than Rascally Roy Thomas scripts a story featuring a Robert E. Howard hero, as Gregarious Gerry Conway comes on board. Now I’d like to note that in my commentary for Kull the Conqueror #4, I had hoped that “Kull hits the road for some far-flung adventures in future issues.” And next time out, bang, here comes Gerry doing just that. Listen, I have nothing but praise for Roy, but this is easily the most interesting Kull issue yet. While not exactly a breath of fresh air, it’s at least a mild breeze. There’s not much downtime for brooding and placing the story in another kingdom for most of the pages is a major plus. I’m also curious to see how the uppity citizens of Valusia react when their barbarian king Kull returns next issue with a boatload of black orphans. Ought to be a raucous town meeting that night.

Marvel Feature 6
Ant-Man in 
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Trimpe

As a skylight shatters, Hank protects Jan from its shards with an umbrella and takes refuge in a heating vent, from which she rescues him after fending off her chauffeur, Charles Matthews, who—with Hank missing—makes a play for the wealthy “widow.”  No sooner has Hank isolated the unknown factor keeping him shrunk than he must stop Whirlwind from kidnapping Jan.  Hank develops a vaccine-like antidote containing the “size-trap factor,” but when he insists on further tests, Jan impatiently takes the formula herself, becoming stuck as well, and following another bout with Whirlwind that torches the lab, the Southampton Review of August 15, 1972 (per the MCDb, this issue’s release date), reveals they are both presumed dead. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Last issue, I posited Whirlwind as Egghead’s only serious rival for the questionable distinction of being Ant-Man’s nemesis, and now up he pops, complete with his obsession for Jan and his inexplicably impenetrable alias, but the Pyms’ aggressive stupidity in not tumbling to it suggests an off month for Friedrich.  Passing the returning “Charles” on his way out the door, Herb Trimpe—inked here by his brother, Mike—will be succeeded next issue by future Killraven and Elric phenom [P.] Craig Russell, per Wikipedia “the first mainstream comic book creator to come out as openly gay"; good on ya, mate.  In the lettercol, one Will Hamblet (“writing under a Paramount Television letterhead”) offers a rather perceptive analysis of Hank’s arguable appeal.

Peter: Despite the fact that I've never liked the Ant-Man character nor his fifth-tier villains, I didn't think this issue's tale was all that bad. The balloon trip was especially exciting. You can tell I wasn't ready for anything readable. I would question if Friedrich is writing the Pyms as dumb for not putting two and two together vis a vis Charles/Whirlwind or whether Mike considered his readers too lame to figure it out. And a neat trick that, The Pyms retro-fitting their entire laboratory down to their mini-sizes without the help of machinery or mail order catalogs.

Scott:  Man, that was crap. You can change his name to Whirlwind and give him a new outfit, but spinning like a top so fast you make stuff blow around is s sucky power. The shrunken Hank and Jan Adventures barely held my interest. Hank is a nowhere character who was never touched by the Marvel magic. The upcoming movie has a lot to overcome.  

Marvel Premiere 5
Doctor Strange in
"The Lurker in the Labyrinth"
Story by Gardner F. Fox
Art by Irv Wesley and Don Perlin

Stephen Strange lies chained on the sacrificial table of Sligguth, the as yet unseen creature who serves Shuma-Gorath, an even more ancient being who once ruled Earth in primitive times. The doctor is a threat to their world domination plans. The reptilian citizens of Starksboro usher in Sligguth and his high priestess Ebora. To buy time, Dr. Strange asks the origin of his would-be executors. All living creatures once worshiped Shuma-Gorath, until “he” became tired and hid within the bowels of the Earth, awaiting the time to rise once more. This explanation has bought Stephen enough time to break his shackles, and he strikes Sligguth, relying on physical strength while he waits for his mystic powers to recharge. He manages to drive the evil hordes back, with distant help from the Ancient One. Sadly, this help has left the Ancient One exhausted and unable to fight off his own enemies who come to take him away. Help comes from mysterious places, and Dr. Strange receives it from unexpected places. Clea, the otherly dimensional girl who loves him, for example. She and Wong, Dr. Strange’s assistant, head to Starksboro to aid Stephen, who has pursued Sligguth to the depths beneath the church. His battle with Sligguth not going well, he calls upon the Vishanti, the powerful ancient good beings of the universe, which return his full power to him. It enables him to defeat Sligguth, but Ebora has summoned waters from below to further leaden Dr. Strange, who may have fought his last battle, as Ebora approaches. -Jim Barwise

Jim: There is so much “foul language” and so many characters coming and going in this issue, it’s hard to keep track, but I still found it an enjoyable follow-up to last month. Instead of relying on the mystery buildup we had for the first two Strange MP installments, here we get mainly action. The Vishanti, Clea on the good side, Ebora and Sligguth from the dark. Agreed, Irv Wesley’s art seems more comical than serious, but the changes of scene are colourful and interesting. What next?

Mark Barsotti: What a comedown. After superlative art the last two months by Barry (Windsor) Smith and Frank Brunner, I gawked in horror as the digital copy of MP #5 (courtesy Dean P) spit from my printer. Who the hell is Irv Wesley, and who gave him a pencil? Apparently he was Sam Kweskin, an old Atlas hand brought in to help Bill Everett on Sub-Mariner after Everett's heart attack, then somehow (I'm guessing either Deadline Doom or beating Roy Thomas at poker) landed this one-off assignment. The art isn't so much bad – it has a certain loose-limbed energy – as bright and cartoony in a very '50's DC house art way that's completely wrong for the story. There's none of the dread and dark menace of previous installments; the supposed-to-be terrifying Sligguth looks like a doodle on an eighth-grader's notebook. The mob of Starkesboro folk, howling for Strange's blood with a goofy homicidal glee evocative of old E.C. horror, are nicely rendered but the rest (the Vishanti - '60's Cher with green skin, fly-eyes guy, and a hound-human hybrid with red flames shooting from his eye sockets - are laugh out loud awful) is evidence enough that Sam/Irv made the right choice leaving Atlas for advertising.

Matthew: Talk about being too good to last:  Roy’s promising REH plotline falls victim to DC refugee Gardner F. Fox, the brevity of whose Marvel career speaks for itself.  His wall-to-wall verbiage mercifully obscures the goofy work of one-shot penciler Irv Wesley—better known by his real name, Sam Kweskin—“a former Bullpen great in the fabulous ’50s [who] has returned to the fold,” a Bulletin tells us, also briefly; this is the first credit I’ve seen for inker Don Perlin.  This month Marvel begins the distinctive Bronze-Age ploy of placing “subtle” pitches (e.g., “Don’t goof!  Buy Spoof!,” “Avoid sadness!  Buy Monster Madness!”), which later became slightly more sophisticated and content-oriented, down at the bottoms of selected pages.

Mark: Legendary Golden-Ager Gardner F. Fox's over-wordy script has the characters spouting needless exposition (Doc, gazing into a pit of vipers: "A pit...where vipers dwell. I would have plunged into it – unable to save myself – if the candle flame hadn't shown me that narrow space between floor and pivoting flagstone!") and the prolix prose hangs like the Vapors of Valtorr in dense word balloons that smother the visually fast-paced story. It's a heavy slog from first to last. And speaking of those Vapors, meant to be a roiling cloud of "terrifying darkness," Sam/Irv makes them look like an oil slick from the Batmobile, as scribbled by...see eighth grader, see notebook.

Scott: Dr. Strange is a hard character to sustain. He works best with certain artists, like Steve Ditko and Barry Smith, who is now off the book. Most other pencillers just haven't shown the same imagination. Ditko is impossible to beat, but Smith came close. Wally Wood did also, but this Irv Wesley guy just doesn't have it. Without that amazing "strangeness" (forgive me), the book is dull. This one put me to sleep. At 6 pm.

Peter: I'll be the one voice, crying out in the night, who dissents. Not a strong dissent, just maybe a thumb-sideways. Yeah, we were all spoiled by that incredible opening last issue but to lay heaps of scorn on this chapter, because it's not the team we drooled over last issue, is being unfair. The art is wildly goofy, true dat, but the pitchers go perfectly with the words. There's a very strong Ditko influence in a lot of Wesley's art and I love that Charles Addams was able to step in and draw the villagers/mutants. Writer Gardner Fox is only aping the man behind the curtain, H.P., who wrote reams of paper with sentences like "The roiling sea dared spit out the macabre insanity known as Pthhhaqua-Fon" and "... the thing is bursting down the door of my study and now it's going to eat my head!" You can call that thing Shuma-Gorath as much as you want but we all know who really dreams under that sea, don't we? Grade-school art and purple prose admitted, I enjoyed this slice of wackiness.

Mark: If the Dean sees Ditko in the art, I see an optometry appointment in his future.

Marvel Team-Up 5
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Vision in
"A Passion of the Mind"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Just prior to the events of Avengers #105, Spidey sees the Vision suffering from inexplicable and increasingly frequent seizures.  On Long Island’s North Shore, the Puppet Master completes the puppet that gives him control of Ballox, a huge alien robot whose ship he saw fall into the surf, and uses it to rob a Manhattan jewelers while Spidey takes the Vision to a hospital, where he jury-rigs an EEG/computer-probe that indicates two sets of brain-waves.  The Puppet Master has his “Monstroid” break into the Baxter Building to await the arrival of his foes, the FF, but Spidey’s device leads them there, and after he destroys the puppet and “disrupts” the villain, the Vision explains that Ballox, a Skrull scout, functioned on the same mental frequency. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Despite its being the fifth issue, and the welcome absence of a MARMIS, this feels more like a template for future outings than did its predecessors: a done-in-one in which Spidey encounters a colleague he hasn’t met before and they battle a second-tier (at best) villain with some minimal continuity from the guest-star’s own book. At this point it’s still unusual to see anybody but Roy writing the Vision, and I think both Gerry and the Kane/Esposito team handle him well; I love the bit with him falling into the sidewalk (“Oboy”).  The last-page link to the Kree-Skrull War came out of left field, and didn’t really seem to add anything, yet the otherwise novel story posits a fairly plausible reason to pit the Puppet Master against our heroes rather than his arch-enemies.

Scott: Gil Kane can't draw the Puppet Master, but to be fair, everyone seems to screw him up. Not a bad issue, but it's hard to get invested in these team ups because there's little lasting effect to whatever happens. Most of them are "one and done" and with a huge tapestry like the Marvel Universe, these sorts of tales seem a little out of place. The Vision's problem is resolved a little too easily and not much really happens here. Just a lot of beating up stuff. I could take it or leave it.

Peter: Even as a wee MZ, I never cared for "one-and-done"s, so perhaps that's why MTU was a title I collected but didn't necessarily read (come on, 'fess up, you did the same with some books too). This is my first time around reading this issue and it just goes to show me I was a pretty bright boy back then. The plot's not bad, interesting in fact, but it should be spread over a couple of issues rather than squished into 20 pages (I can't believe I just requested a two-issue story featuring The Puppet Master). Why in the world would Spider-Man take The Vision back to his place for a rest with Harry in the next room? Does he suddenly have no problem with people knowing who he really is? I think Monstroid is about as cliched as you can get but Bollocks is just shy of Villain Hall of Fame material. There's a nuttiness to this book's chronology that I just can't get past. Stan (and now Roy) go to such lengths to make sure The Hulk isn't battling The Frog on Jupiter in his own title the same month as he's helping The Surfer and Doc Strange fight off The Eyes of Aggememnon in The Defenders, but here in MTU they're only concerned with what's been going on recently with The Vision. We're told about events in Avengers #105 relating to what's going on here but Spidey right now is locked in deadly battle with Doc Ock and Hammerhead over at Amazing. I know because I just read that issue. How can he be in two places at the same time? It would make more sense to leave this title out of the Universe continuity since so many heroes flitter in and out. I'll write Roy and see what he thinks.

Joe:  I have to agree with both the Dean on the issues with this issue, but lean a little more towards Prof. Matthew on the solid effort by the creative team. I have a fondess for MTU as a whole, especially months when Spidey got to team with heroes out of his usual circle, like the Vision here. The one thing that bothers me is Puppet Master says he will call Ballox "Monstroid", then proceeds to keep switching back and forth between the two monikers, confusing everyone including the controlling puppet!

Sub-Mariner 55
"The Abominable Snow-King"
Story and Art by Bill Everett

Namor bids farewell to Namorita before he swims back home to his hangout in Antarctica. Something is tragically amiss as Namor finds sunken ships, destroyed by packs of sea lions, apparently under someone's control. They push icebergs in front of the ships, and once they sink, the sea lions push the cargo away into an ice fortress. Namor orders the one survivor to radio for assistance as he goes to investigate. After he finds the captured crewmen, Subby discovers that a gigantic, monstrous beast called Torg is the one responsible behind the wreckage. Since Torg has Namor beat in size and strength, the hero has to use his speed to avoid the monster's clutches. It's a combined effort as the captured crew mates, along with rescue helicopters, attack and bomb Torg in order to give Subby an advantage. The hero of the sea sprays Torg with a large amount of oil, solidifying him, then clubs him to the bottom of the ocean with an iceberg. In the end, Namor finds he has a new found respect for humans after the bravery they showed while joining him in the fight. -Tom McMillion

Tom: I'll admit that I found this story enjoying even though it had its flaws. On one hand the artwork was pretty good, on the other Torg looked a little too goofy to be threatening. The scene where the humans attacked Torg by climbing on him looked kind of funny. They were lucky that Torg didn't decide to do the stop, drop, and roll.

Matthew: There are many arguments against Nita’s “innocent infatuation” with Subby, enumerated by Jeffrey A. Brown in the lettercol:  “Namor is too much the visionary; she, too much the perpetual youth, not to mention their age difference and the fact that they happen to be related.”  Let’s hope that the “young ship’s officer” takes her mind off of that; meanwhile, even though Torg, the Abominable Snow-King, sounds like a pre-super-hero Strange Tales wannabe, writer-artist Everett’s decidedly retro style continues to be an entertaining alternative to standard Bronze fare.  The element I enjoyed the most was Namor’s congenial interactions with his “oft-sworn enemies—the surface-men,” both behaving and regarded as a hero in their grateful eyes.

Peter: By the Golden Girdle of Galatea! This strip just keeps getting more fun. Everett's attention to detail (such as Torg's glacial hideaway) makes every panel a feast for the eyes and what a nice change of pace to have a (as Matthew alludes) Strange Tales wannabe with a brain and perfect diction. Wild Bill doesn't even slow the action down long enough to give us one of those obligatory "While I have you helpless, Namor, here's how I got my start" origins. Torg is just there and what he wants with the crewmen and their booty died with Bill Everett. My favorite moment here: one of the captured crew exclaiming "Remember the Alamo!" and one of his comrades shouting back, "Are you crazy??" How can you not like a strip like this?

Scott: So, wait, is Nita Namor's cousin, or the daughter of an ex? Did someone realize the youngster wants to do the serious with her cousin and that was pretty damned icky? Or was I always wrong? I'd go back and check, but I'm just too damned lazy. This is another old fashioned style issue with some great character designs. I love the look of the Snow King, he's 100% Everett. The dialog is clunky as always, but this is all such fun. The final panel looks like it was done by another artist.

The Mighty Thor 205
"A World Gone Mad!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta

Thor and Sif see who has led them to his fiery underground domain: Mephisto! He has hypnotized the other Asgardians, as well as many Earthers, to be mindless zombies. As a demonstration of his power, Mephisto makes Sif turn against Thor, but the Thunder God merely stops her, without harm. The dark lord reveals he plans to have his demons possess the bodies of the humans as a tool to take over the surface world—as demonstrated by one of his elementals, Hykos. When the other Asgardians march against him, Thor uses the power of the storm to entomb them in a rock chamber, safe from the coming battle. Mephisto leaves the Thunder God for hours to battle endless hordes, led by many of Earth’s historical evil leaders. To his captor’s surprise, Thor struggles through, and realizes how Mephisto meant to enslave him: by forcing him to strike against his fellows. Having gained an advantage, Thor entombs the evil one in a storm-hardened sea of lava. The others are all free from the spells that held them captive, and they return to the surface. Thor uses a vortex to return the kidnapped humans, unharmed and memories clean. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Mephisto is a villain worthy of the Thor’s talents, just as he was in the glory days of the Silver Surfer’s mag. The story is tight, and moves along at a smooth pace, and has lots of eerie touches. Seeing his brethren so helplessly controlled must give Thor pause, and the sight of Earth’s past evil leaders was a delicious touch. Perhaps Thor’s victory was a little predictable, but he certainly earns it. I’d hate to think what would happen to the Mole Man if he met up with the Luciferous being in those underground caverns!

Scott: Another issue of sound and fury, but very little else. Mephisto is at his best when drawn by John Buscema and he doesn't disappoint here. But otherwise, it's the same old. A chore.

Matthew: A McDonnell missive (see Iron Man) pleads, “Keep Colletta off Thor,” prompting an enlightening reply:  “the reason the talented Mr. Mooney’s been popping up…is that Big John has sometimes been too busy to do full pencils…meaning that he sketches in the figures without tightening the drawing or putting in blacks.  That job is then left to the inker, who must be able to pencil himself; and though Vinnie was a top penciler many years ago, it’s been so long since he worked with anything other than a brush, he felt someone else should finish those particular issues.  Thus, enter Jim…who still grooves on graphite as well as ink.” Notwithstanding Vince’s return, a nice knock-down, drag-out fight with Mephisto…and even a clean ending for a change.

Peter: Mephisto wills Sif to battle Thor. The Thunder God exclaims, "Nay, there are other ways of stopping Sif's deadly charge besides knocking her block off!" Then Mephisto throws Thor's other comrades against him. The Thunder God exclaims, "Nay, there are other ways..." Stop me if you've heard this one before. It's a fair question that Thor asks Mephisto: "Why?" I'm asking exactly the same question. Why is the Prince of Hell doing his darndest to bring our hero down? I can't detect a motive if there's one given. If Mephisto's very touch brings Thor to his knees, then why all the bother? I love Mephisto but he's wasted here.

The Tomb of Dracula 5
"Death to a Vampire-Slayer!"
Story by Gardner F. Fox
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Dracula and the mute vampire hunter Taj find themselves trapped in a netherworld surrounded by demons. The demons attack but Dracula is able to fight them off. Eventually they find another mirror passageway that transports them back in time to Transylvania. Since he might need Taj later on for blood, Drac puts him inside a coffin. The vampire decides to find and kill his old enemy Van Helsing, the one responsible for driving a stake through his heart and leaving him dormant for a century. Meanwhile, Rachel Van Helsing and Frank Drake find a book of spells that allows them to travel through the demonic mirror and go back to where Dracula is now residing. Once he spies the two of them from his castle, the count unleashes Lenore, one of his vampire ladies to dispatch them. Frank and Rachel stumble across Taj and rescue him from the coffin. They are then able to thwart the vampiress' attack by using a tombstone cross. Just as Dracula is about to pounce on his old enemy Van Helsing, the three vampire hunters burst in and try to kill him with a crossbow. Dracula decides to escape through the mirror with Lenore. The story ends with the heroes about to embark once again through the mirror to pursue the fiendish count. -Tom McMillion

Tom: I got no complaints about this series so far. It's got fast paced action along with interesting characters and scenarios. Despite all the action this title nevers loses it's horror theme as Dracula seems to kill an average of about two people per story. I'm beginning to see why this comic has been so highly regarded over the years.

Scott: A very cool premise, but you have to be careful with this sort of time travel. Drac goes back in time to Transylvania where he is a count, long before his castle burned to the ground. All well and good, but where is the Dracula of that period? Granted, he doesn't have to be there, but it should be a concern. Taj and deaf and dumb, but he apparently can follow oral commands, as he is ordered around with Frank. The art is great as always and this close to Halloween, a good Dracula issue is a nice touch.

Werewolf By Night 2
"The Hunter -- -- And the Hunted!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte

Werewolf By Night is on the run! Hunted by policeman, he spies a helicopter stalking him…no, also hunting him! But when the Werewolf reaches the LA pier, the copter throws a net on him—but the quick-thinking beast dives into the sea, where a shark strikes! Defeating the predator, the Werewolf makes it to shore and collapses. The next morning, Jack Russell is back at Buck Cowan’s place to find girlfriend Terri there to help translate the Darkhold, but she suggests taking it to Father Joquez, a former teacher and subject of a Buck article, now a rabble-rousing classical language scholar. Weeks pass, and Buck’s curiosity about Jack and the full moon lead Russell to recount his origin, then go to Terri’s arms…when the mysterious Cephalos knocks on the door, the man in the helicopter! He gets Jack to go with him, then gases our hero and takes him prisoner in a secret lair. Cephalos was born a dwarf and an experiment transformed his body, but he now requires an incredible amount of energy to survive—which is why he wants to harness the power of Jack changing into a werewolf! During the process, the Werewolf breaks free and battles Cephalos’ dwarfish henchman, until the villain himself attacks and vanquishes our hairy hero! The Werewolf stumbles off, only to come up against Cephelos’ helicopter. He lunges at it, and ends up bringing the machine down in a fiery wreck near the Hollywood sign. –Joe Tura

Joe Tura: The first night I read this issue, between it and the awful Giants vs. Vikings Monday night
game, I fell asleep sitting at the laptop. Tonight, I’m fading a little, but pressing on to finish this commentary. Now, maybe it’s not that bad, although some will disagree. After all, we get some bookend action, however short the so-called battles might be. And a sorta promising villain in Cephalos—who’s quickly dispatched. And some promise of learning the secrets of the Darkhold, which will continue forever, or at least until the book is cancelled. Geez, we even get romance But it all adds up to mediocrity. Decent art, decent script. No more, no less. Oh wait, I just yawned again. My commentary is putting me to sleep! (How’s that for a straight line…)

Peter: Why is it that every bad dude WW has to face is a bald muscleman (usually retarded)? Was there a template that The Rascally One created for this series: Day Three: 1/Jack wakes up after some bad stuff the night before. 2/He's conked on the head and thrown into a van by a wheelchair old man (or shapely Amazonian) and his giant. 3/Nothing really needs to happen except WW has to kill a deer, lion, or a turtle to satisfy the killer animal element. 4/End the story with him alone, wondering if he'll ever find happiness. Note to self: send same memo to Friedrich over at Ghost Rider.

Joe: On the Weremail By Night letters page, Bill Blyberg from Glastonbury, CT compares Mike Ploog to Steve Ditko, and recounts a fellow fan that compared Jack Russell to Peter Parker. I think I just plotzed.

The Invincible Iron Man 52
"Raga: Son of Fire"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta

Iron Man tests his “new solar-charged integrated circuits” and flies out to L.A., where Cynthia Chong breaks her demonic vow to a cult-like “family” for forest ranger Mack, so the enraged Raga, Son of Fire, starts a blaze in the Santa Monica Mountains that threatens Mack, and the family sentences Cynthia to death.  As Tony takes a break from his vacation to rescue Mack and extinguish the fire, Marianne takes a job in computer technology, but her visions send her on a destructive rampage, and she is considered unbalanced.  Iron Man locates the family and easily bests Raga’s normal disciples, who flee while Raga taps his innermost emotions to transform his anger into demon-fire, vowing vengeance on Cynthia and trapping Iron Man in molten lava... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I hope that even the most ardent Tuskaphile would have no quarrel with the opening three-page montage of Shellhead putting himself through his paces in his version of the X-Men’s Danger Room.  For once, Friedrich’s somewhat overwritten script is the weak link, and I hope disposable villain Raga becomes more interesting in the next entry.  Represented in this and many a lettercol is David McDonnell of Lebanon, PA, later a journalist for The Comic Buyers’ Guide, Steranko’s Mediascene PrevueStarlog, and Comics Scene; via the Professor Matthew Time Paradox, Professor Gil and I had the pleasure of hanging with Dave at a delightful Long Island barbecue just after I had, by an extraordinary coincidence, read this issue while riding shotgun with my wife en route to Merrick.

Oh, for the fullness of heart and spring in step that comes
with millions in the bank!

Scott: Tony Stark is still in super douche mode, banging chicks left and right as if that will solve his problems. Granted, it couldn't hurt and I suppose I'd do the same thing were I handsome and rich. Or just rich. I always find it amusing that "chasing tail" is always Tony's default when his relationships go sour. "Chicks break my heart. I know the cure! More chicks!" Well, in a few years, he'll replace chicks with booze.

...and starring Will Farrell as Raga!
Peter: Rather than search Google for more pseudonyms for Gawdawful, I though I'd let Mike Friedrich's dialog do the talking for me:

Raga: You insult Raga, fool! My flame is the fury of a hell-soul blazing with the literal fire of anger!

Henchman: He just belted Dion like a limp sock!

Hippie Guy: I'm burning up, hot-wise!

Hippy Girl: All of you run -- to save our lives -- and perhaps our souls!

Iron Man (while sinking in lava): Trapped! Sucked further and further into this lava-like quagmire...

But it's not just Friedrich's purple script that reeks, it's (yep, you've heard this before) Tuska's amateurish pencils. The guy can't draw the human face but we all know he could have made a living pushing dental implants on billboards. 

Scott: Page 22, panel 3. Not Tuska's finest. Raga's appearance activated my boredom powers. When will Iron Man get good villains again? (Faculty: "Again?") This string of losers does nothing for me. Shellhead's best stuff is over in The Avengers.


Chamber of Chills #1
Kid Colt Outlaw #164
Marvel's Greatest Comics #39
Marvel Super-Heroes #33
Marvel Tales #39
Marvel Triple Action #7
Mighty Marvel Western #21
My Love #20
Night Nurse #1 ->
Rawhide Kid #105
Red Wolf #4
The Ringo Kid #17
Sgt. Fury #104
Special Marvel Edition #7
Spoof #2
Two-Gun Kid #107
Western Gunfighters #12
Where Monsters Dwell #18

Night Nurse became the second of three new major titles, showcasing strong, independent women and their (mis) adventures, to clog already bursting comic racks in August of 1972. The story of three student nurses, Linda Carter (doctor's daughter but independent), Christine Palmer (money-bred but fiercely independent), and Georgia Jenkins (token black from the ghetto but kick-your-ass independent) and the traumas they encounter during their training, the initial chapter is a hotbed of cliches and bad dialog. Georgia (whose "people" need her skills back in the 'hood) gets the worst treatment of the trio but that's to be expected as her biographer was a white woman in 1972. Nothing was more with-it than a jive-talkin' hero at the time (or so the writers at Marvel thought), and Georgia came with all the trappings, including a misunderstood but troubled brother.  I've no idea how Jean Thomas (then-wife of Rascally) was welcomed into the Marvel Bullpen but I suspect it owed mostly to her signature on a wedding certificate. There's nothing resembling women's liberation here: Linda's biggest challenge is whether to say "yes" to a nursing career or her millionaire boyfriend, and Christine vows not to return to her daddy's riches before striking out on her own. Both have comfy sofas to fall back on. Perhaps most indicative of what Marvel had in mind with these "Feminist" titles is the multitude of cheesecake panels, displaying the three in their undies. Winslow Mortimer's art isn't really all that bad, it's just there, no excitement or style to it whatsoever. Just a day at the office. Mortimer's cover, however, gives new meaning to the word Photoshop. It's easy to see, reading this dreadful stack of sludge, just why your other comic-collecting friends would hurl "Oh yeah, well you read Night Nurse!" at you as the most extreme insult. The only real bonus I got from reading this is that I am finally confident that omitting coverage of the romance titles on MU was the right thing to do. -Peter Enfantino

Easily the best comic of the month, totally worth the build up of back alley murmuring here at the University. There have been sit ins and meetings galore as we awaited the arrival of this amazing, realistic romance title.  Nothing will keep me from reading every single page turning issue. Oh wait, this isn't Bizzarro World? Sorry. Back on Earth: It's not even worth it for the underwear shots.
-Scott McIntyre

Debuting hot on the heels of last month's Journey Into Mystery, Marvel unleashes more horror tales in the package known as Chamber of Chills #1. Whereas the title of JIM had been previously used by Marvel, CoC was actually an infamous pre-code horror comic published by Harvey for 26 issues from 1951-1954. Never mistaken for an EC horror comic, Harvey's CoC nonetheless could serve up the gory goods when it wanted to. Marvel's CoC, on the other hand, was a tame 20 pages of pablum composed of an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison story, an "original" George Alec Effinger werewolf tale with a really dopey twist, and a so-so reprint from the first issue of Menace (probably Marvel/Atlas' most consistently well-written horror title). I've no doubt that Ellison's "Delusion for a Dragon-Slayer" (which originally appeared in the men's mag Knight, September 1966) read much more coherently than the version presented here (and it didn't have the dreadful Syd Shores art to distract from its words) but I haven't read the original so I'll defer to our resident Ellison expert, Professor Mark Barsotti, to vouch for its merits.
-Peter Enfantino

Dean Peter, ever watchful for idle hands among junior staff here at the ivy-covered halls of Marvel U, knew to sprinkle some literary catnip in my path, just whisper the name of esteemed fantasist Harlan Ellison  and POOF! my Sunday off transformed into the study and dissection of Chamber of Chills #1. Not one to shirk an assignment (not if I ever hope to reach the exclusive top floor of the tree house, where, it's whispered, original MMMS buttons are handed out like Tic Tacs and the Champagne girls look like Flo Steinberg), I didn't page ahead to Harlan, but began with "Moon of Madness, Moon of Fear!" a shaggy werewolf story, wherein no good deed goes unpunished. Craig Russell's so-so art doesn't hint at his War of the Worlds heights to come. An Atlas reprint about a sadistic prison warden getting his comeuppance boasts moody Russ Health art, but Stan's script is so casually tossed-off, he moves the gas chamber from the upper reaches of the prison to the cellar without batting an eye.

On to the main attraction! Nice Kane dragon cover (it has nothing to do with the story) which also announces A Tale of Fear by Harlan Ellison..., but why replace a famous scribe's far superior title, "Delusion For a Dragon Slayer," with the generic "A Dragon Stalks By Night?" Syd Shore's art is serviceable at best, while Gerry Conway's script faithfully mines the original, using much of Ellison's own (heavily-edited) prose as we follow dreary Every-Man Warren Glazer Griffin into the afterlife when he's crushed by a wayward wrecking ball. "...heaven is (where) you mix all the days of your life...with all the intents and ethics of your life," or so a talking wizard-sword tells Griffin when he awakes aboard ship, no longer a schlubby accountant, but a long-haired loin-cloth wearing S&S hero (originally blond and blue-eyed, thinking, No one can be that Aryan.) Swordy tells Griffin to sail through dangerous waters, "find the island, overcome the devil that guards the her love." Ah, a wish-fulfillment quest, but this being Ellison, things take a darker turn as Griffin's true nature is revealed as that of a vain, cowardly rapist. He guides the ship through a hypnotizing storm of colors (not depicting it in a visual medium is a forehead-slapping missed bet; lines like "...the colors came, humming, creeping, boiling up from nowhere at the horizon line; twisting and surging like snake whirlwinds... In a rising, keening spiral of hysteria they came, first pulsing in primaries, then secondaries...and finally in colors that had no names..." would inspire most artists. Not Syd; there's nary a hint of razzle-dazzle in his generic seascapes), but at the cost of his crew. Griffin slays the beast, but only by attacking from behind, and as for the girl... That's the other missing element, the brutal rape scene, just hinted at here (From the original: "He had thoughts all during the frantic struggle and just at the penetration: womanwhore slutlover trollopmine over and over...and when he rose from her, the eyes that stared back at him, like leaves in the snow, on the first day of winter."), that reveals Griffin's soul to be a "garbage dump" was never gonna make it into a funny book. But even watered-down Ellison is hardly pabulum, and all but the dimmest reader will get the obvious-but-effective point: that a man must be worthy of his dreams. Despite its flaws, this eight page mortality tale still has some bite.
-Mark Barsotti

And just because we can...